Saturday’s GOP debate finally clarified the Donald Trump phenomenon. After months of dominating the polls and millions of words of analysis, the grueling slog of the primary race is finally bringing the facts into sharp relief. Donald Trump isn’t a revolutionary. He’s not a conservative. He’s not even a populist. He’s a Democrat.
In the Greenville, S.C., debate, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz both got under Trump’s skin, and he cracked. He shouted his true feelings, and they were ugly to see. Regarding the Iraq War, Trump made it quite plain that he believes the fever-swamp “Bush lied, people died” narrative of the radical Left. The transcript could not be more clear.
Trump: You do whatever you want. You call it whatever you want. I wanna tell you. They lied.
John Dickerson: Okay.
Trump: They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
Not only is Trump ignorant of the thousands of chemical weapons found in Iraq, he’s spouting talking points you likely won’t even hear from Hillary Clinton. But he wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.
Trump: How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center . . . The World — I lost hundreds of friends. The World Trade Center came down . . . during the reign. He kept us safe? That’s not safe. That is not safe.
There is no mention of the failures of two successive administrations, including the Clinton administration’s wholly inadequate response to the Africa embassy bombings and the near-sinking of the USS Cole. An alleged Republican can’t even muster up a fair criticism of Bill Clinton at a GOP debate? Disgraceful.
But, again, he wasn’t done. When the conversation turned to Planned Parenthood, incredibly he had this to say:
Cruz: You said, “Planned Parenthood does wonderful things and we should not defund it.”
Trump: It does do wonderful things but not as it relates to abortion.
Cruz: So I’ll tell you what . . .
Trump: Excuse me. Excuse me, there are wonderful things having to do with women’s health.
These are standard Democratic talking points, intentionally designed to obfuscate the fact that when you pump hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into a business, you help the entire business — not just the portion funded. He knows that. Everyone involved in the debate knows that.
Where’s the Jacksonian populism in those three statements? Where’s the political revolution? That’s angry leftism, nothing more.
When you combine fever-swamp leftism with his protectionism and border policies, Trump looks less like a new sensation in American politics and more like a famous and talented gene splice of an old-school Teamster and a millennial Salon.com editor. He’s an old-fashioned union Democrat and a new-fangled conspiracy theorist. He’s got a chronic case of Bush Derangement Syndrome. I used to think his public persona was that of a WWE wrestler. Now I think he’s Pajama Boy with ’roid rage, tweeting until his thumbs fall off.Even before Saturday’s debate, he’d already lost any pretense of being a revolutionary. Aside from his border fence and his temporary ban on Muslim immigration, his primary policy prescription consisted of little more than “Put me in charge, and I’ll make things right.” That’s the oldest piece of political pie-in-the-sky there is, and it doesn’t become revolutionary simply because it’s accompanied by a barrage of personal insults and a shock-and-awe media presence.
But after Saturday’s debate, it’s clear there’s a Democrat in the GOP field. Trump doesn’t threaten the Republican establishment because he’s too conservative or too populist. He threatens the Republican establishment because he belongs in the other party. He’s hid it well until now. But as his family Bible says — in the same Testament as Two Corinthians — “There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.”
Donald Trump has been revealed. The ball is in your court, South Carolina. Will the state that prides itself on picking the Republican nominee select the GOP’s first Democrat?
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.